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For MBAs: The Dos of the Recruiter Interview
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Making the most of conversations with recruiters

While having an MBA may still put you at the top of a recruiter’s résumé pile, it won’t automatically get you past the first round of the recruitment stage.

It’s probably not a good idea to simply tell a recruiter or potential employer that you have your MBA. Unless you bring your degree and knowledge to life, your MBA is an expensive piece of paper.

To ensure employers recognize that you are the key talent they need, there are crucial dos and don’ts to follow, and here are some of them.

What is it about your MBA that matters most to employers?

Do share why you decided to pursue an MBA. Was it to develop a specific set of skills? Recruiters and employers want to know where your passion lies and how that drive will impact your work with the company. Be sure to highlight new strengths discovered or developed in your MBA and how you plan on leveraging those skills in the job you’re interviewing for.

A good example of this is by saying something like, “prior to pursuing my MBA, I found that I had clear strengths in operations management and human resources, but I wasn’t getting the experience I wanted to develop my skills in economics and business strategy. I decided to pursue my MBA to strengthen those competencies. One of the case studies I worked on was for a company who wanted to transition to software as a service. I look forward to applying the analytical tools from that particular body of work to help solve the organization’s business challenges.

What types of experiences & success stories will help you stand out from the crowd?

Don’t forget to explain why your success stories are relevant. Discussing specific measurable outcomes is important, but without context, recruiters may not fully understand the impact you had on the organization. For example, telling a recruiter you saved the company $40,000 as a result of an initiative you led may not sound substantial on its own.

Instead, be sure to relay how those numbers fit into the scale of the business. What business need did you satisfy in the example and what were the financial effects?  In the above example, if you explain that the $40,000 you saved the organisation represented 4% of the revenue your department is expected to generate, it helps the recruiter understand the true impact of that cost savings.

How much should you focus on your MBA versus past experiences in an interview?

Don’t reference your MBA too much. It’s obviously important to mention that you attained this degree, but what’s most important is how you’ve made it actionable. What have you done with the knowledge you acquired and how will you apply this knowledge to help a potential employer?

For example, during the interview it may be beneficial to point out how, “two of the tools that I picked up in my MBA program and use to develop core business strategies are the SWOT analysis or TOWS matrix. Recently, for example,  I derived a strategy to solve for [specific problem] by first interviewing key stakeholders and then working through a traditional SWOT analysis. This allowed me to [insert results].

What types of questions should you ask during an interview?

Do ask questions that demonstrate the acumen acquired through your MBA program. Asking the right questions not only demonstrates your ability to think critically, but also shows the recruiter that you have a deeper understanding of the company’s challenges and overall business objectives. Examples include:

  • What would you say is the one thing that keeps the CEO awake at night?
  • Has a strategy been developed to address [insert relative situation/problem]?
  • What is the biggest pain point that I can alleviate if I’m hired?
  • In filling this role, what competencies is the hiring manager hoping to bring into his or her management team (financial, strategic, managerial, etc.)?

Gaining these insights will allow you to be deliberate and strategic about the information you share or ask about in your next interview with the organization. Other questions you may want to consider asking include: What are the key business initiatives for the year? Are there any change management initiatives under way in the organization? What are some of the attributes top performers in this role have?

What are “top MBA candidates” doing to bring their degree to life?

Not all MBA-credentialed candidates come directly out of their program with hands-on experience.  Some MBA programs require internships. Those programs ensure that their graduates have opportunities to apply their education, thus providing their students with excellent talking points in interviews. If your MBA program did not afford you the experience, nor does your current employer, it is important to ask for those opportunities and seek out the experience you need. Ideally, networking to gain a position at a volunteer group or non-profit organization may allow you to glean experience in strategic or financial work. This will allow you to have real-world examples of how you have applied your MBA education and demonstrate your newly acquired competencies in action.

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About The Author
Angela Hills
Angela Hills is the Executive Vice President of Cielo (formerly Pinstripe & Ochre House), the world’s leading global talent acquisition and management partner. Angela is a leading authority on innovative talent acquisition and management solutions that help clients address their most complex workforce challenges.

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